Crimes among IPS officers

That Saji Mohan loved the high life was well known in Chandigarh. That he lived dangerously, cutting deals with the drug mafia, was not. So when the 1995 batch IPS officer, posted as the Narcotics Control Bureau’s zonal director in Chandigarh till December 2008, was caught by Maharashtra’s Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) pushing a 13.85 kg consignment of heroin in a Mumbai suburb last week, it sent shock waves through the Union Territory. Not so much because an IPS officer had been nabbed thus but because this particular officer had in the last two years earned a name for himself as a busy drug-buster.

In fact, during his two-year tenure in Chandigarh, when he also briefly held additional charge of Jammu and Kashmir, the NCB zonal directorate seized a total of 52 kg of heroin. Saji also ruffled feathers in the local police with his ‘Operation Tri-city’, covering Chandigarh and its satellite towns of Mohali and Panchkula, for the operation led to the suspension of six Chandigarh police officers for their alleged links with drug peddlers. The officers now claim they were fixed.

But it now appears Saji was milking the very mafia he pretended to be chasing. And, he did this in style. His every ‘success’ was well publicised, thanks to friends in the media. He was a regular at Chandigarh’s discotheques like ‘Score’ and ‘Voodo’, and though his choice of friends did raise a few eyebrows, his many drug busts silenced critics. He would go incognito to these night spots in jeans and casuals, often sporting dark glasses, and has been seen nursing a drink and chatting up people. Saji claimed that he frequented discos and bars to conduct surveillance. It now turns out that there may have been more to these nocturnal outings.

The ATS team, now in Chandigarh, initially suspected that he had siphoned off part of the drugs seized during his tenure. But the NCB inventory showed no pilferage. However, the BSF, which also seized about 100 kg of heroin last year, had been handing over its seizures to the NCB. One of the possibilities being explored is that Saji probably diverted part of this contraband.

Or was he ferrying heroin smuggled from Jammu & Kashmir? That’s another angle being explored. For he reportedly told the ATS that a narcotics dealer from that state had delivered four separate consignments at his house in Chandigarh. During his previous posting in Doda, in J&K, Saji is said to have developed contacts with the drug mafia there. Top NCB officials, embarrassed by Saji’s actions, have decided to review all cases cracked by him.

The Chandigarh police is also awaiting a review of cases involving its men. Last October, Saji had arrested a well-known peddler, Harpal Singh, who revealed the names of six policemen allegedly linked to the drug racket. The police immediately suspended them. But curiously, as Chandigarh SSP S.S. Srivastava told Outlook, despite several reminders, no official from the NCB came to record a statement or offer evidence in the inquiry. Says sub-inspector Harinder Sekhon, one of the suspended policemen: “I registered 96 cases during my stint in the narcotics cell. When I was suspended, I always suspected that some peddlers deliberately framed me. I learnt later that the NCB was tapping my phone. Now I realise that this is probably why, whenever I laid a trap, the offenders eluded me.” Harinder and his five colleagues who ended up being suspended in similar cases are now hoping for a reprieve.

Those who knew Saji cannot believe that the affable officer they mingled with could be a criminal. For many, he was just a fun-loving Malayali who seemed good at his work.

Wrong Sided

    * K.G. Prem Shanker, additional director-general of police (human rights), Kerala, was sentenced on Jan 12, 2009, to six months’ imprisonment for assaulting a Kannur-based journalist in 1988.
    * Haryana cadre IPS officer and IG (prisons) Ravi Kant Sharma was convicted on March 18, 2008, and got life for murdering journalist Shivani Bhatnagar.
    * Assistant IG of police (security), Punjab, Davinder Singh Garcha, arrested on Feb 26, 2008, for his alleged involvement in the Moga sex scandal.
    * Orissa DGP (home guards) B.B. Mohanty surrendered before a Jaipur court on Jan 10, 2008, after a warrant was issued against him for helping his son jump parole. The latter was convicted for raping a German tourist in Alwar.
    * On April 24, 2007, D.G. Vanjara, DIG, border range, Gujarat, was arrested for the fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and two others.
    * Ashraf Mir, a DSP of J&K, was arrested on June 4, 2006, in a sex scandal involving a teenage girl.    

Chander Suta Dogra, OutLookIndia Magazine, Feb 9, 2009

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